Walter Philip THOMPSON (aka Tommy) [1909-1978] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Walter Philip THOMPSON (aka Tommy) [1909-1978]

Walter Philip
Alias / nickname: 
Birthplace (town, state): 
Tac Chow, Chekiang
Birthplace (country): 

Walter Thompson was a Superintedent in the Hong Kong police when the Japanese attacked in December 1941.

He was wounded by shell fragments during the hostilities and interned in Stanley after the surrender. On the night of March 18, 1942 he began an escape with Gwen Priestwood. On their way to Chungking, they were helped by Chinese guerrillas, and Thompson decided to operate with them behind Japanese lines. He ended the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Note: In Priestwood's book on the escape (Through Japanese Barbed-wire, 1943) he's given the pseudonym Anthony Bathurst.



To:  Mr W P Thompson

From: Unknown

Dated:  26th July 1942

1.   You are proceeding to South China to assist Mr Victor Gittins in the penetration of Japanese occupied territory, extending this penentration if possible to Formosa, Hainan, and elsewhere as opportunity offers.

2.   You are to bear in mind that we are not in any way interested in what happens in Free China;  and further that our main interest is confined to the Japanese fighting services.

3.  We are only interested in the collection of intelligence and do not undertake any other activities such as organising the escape of prisoners etc.

4.   You should co-operate with Chinese official circles in any way open to you and should supply them with any information regarding Japanese armed forces that you may obtain.

I asked Elizabeth if Thompson was part of the BAAG. She replied:

No,Thompson was definitely not BAAG - he was SIS, as was Victor Gittins, etc.

SIS, the Secret Intelligence Service, is also known as MI6.

This is a fairly obscure report I came across a few years ago whilst looking for something else. I have posted it for general interest as  it doesn't seem to be easily accessible. It was written by Walter Thompson on reaching Chungking, in June 1942. He escaped from Stanley on 19 March 1942 with Gwen Priestwood, who he had sent on ahead with the list of internees. The report is in CO 129/590/23 pages 22 and 23. I can't recall the file title, but probably something general. 
I have made a few notes at the end of the report. Someone else may know more about Thompson's activities in the Sai Kung / Sha Tau Kok area. I recall that  Percy Chen - Caribbean born - was active with the guerrillas near Sha Tau Kok. 
c/o British Embassy,
24th June 1942
Report made by Walter Philip Thompson, Superintendent of Police,
formerly stationed in Hong Kong
             On the outbreak of hostilities in Hong Kong on 8.12.41 I assumed general charge of uniformed Police duties on the Island of Hong Kong, and continued this duty until 15.12.41. when I was disabled in an air raid on Police Headquarters. I was discharged from hospital on 22.12.41 at my own request, and resumed duty at Police Headquarters until the surrender on 25.12.41. [Note 1]
            I was interned with the Police Force, at first in a Chinese hotel until 21.1.42 when we were removed to the Civilian Internment Camp on Stanley peninsular.
            On 19.3.42 I escaped from the internment camp accompanied by a Mrs. G.E. Priestwood, reaching the protection of friendly guerrilla forces in Sai Kung district of the New Territories on 23.3.42.
            Subsequently in the light of experience gained, we discussed the possibility of being able to assist others to escape, and came to the conclusion that there were chances which delay might destroy. I took the decision of returning as soon as arrangements could be made for Mrs. Priestwood’s safe passage onwards.
            En route northwards through Wai Chau, East River, I reported my escape by telegram to His Majesty’s Ambassador on 26.3.42.
            We reached Lung Chuen on the East River on 3.4.42, and after Mr. Priestwood had left by lorry for Shiu Kwan on 4.4.42 I left southwards on 5.4.42. [Note 2]

            Pausing only to make contact with certain guerilla officials in Wai Chau, I reached the Sai Kung area in the New Territories again on 12.4.42.During the next five days I completed preparations to reach Stanley peninsular by sea, and made three attempts to get round on 15th, 16th and 17th April. Owing to very adverse weather I was unable to achieve this object. I then decided that a personal attempt was not possible in the light of information received of precautions being taken at Stanley, and also because I was then satisfied that my presence in the district was no longer a close secret.

            I then transferred to the Sha Tau Kok area of the New Territories where I remained until 26.4.42. in close contact with certain guerrillas, who I found sincerely anxious to help. During this period I made plans for opening up contact with

a) the internment camp at Stanley,

b) certain loyal Indians in the colony,

c) certain Chinese members of the force who I believed to have remained loyal,

d) Dr. Selwyn Clark, (former Director of Medical Services) and certain other Europeans at large in the colony.

           I also made arrangements for a survey of an overland escape route from the Stanley internment camp, with a view to placing agents at various points en route, and securing the services of reliable boat people, so that in the event of an organised attempt succeeding, the escape would encounter the minimum of fatigue and danger.

             Having satisfied myself that I could do nothing further at the time in the way of foundation work, I returned to Wai Chau, arriving there on 29.4.42. I reported my lack of immediate success for the information of His Majesty’s Ambassador.

             I remained in Wai Chau until 10.5.42. expecting news of some developments, and also recuperating from the efforts of an indifferent diet over a period of months. Owing to the political difficulties, close contact with the guerrillas with whom I was working was impossible, and when I left Wai Chau in response to a request from His Majesty’s Ambassador to visit Chungking for a personal discussion, I had not yet received any fresh news.

            His Majesty’s Ambassador was aware of the nature of my mission through information given to him by Mrs. Priestwood at my request. Time and secrecy being such important factors, it was impossible without many weeks travel, to consult His Majesty’s Ambassador personally for authority to undertake this work.

             Mrs. Priestwood in addition carried from me a dispatch containing all the information in my possession about conditions in Hong Kong during and after the war, with instructions to transmit the relevant portions to the authorities concerned.

              I had hoped to be able to return to the vicinity of Hong Kong to continue the work started, and with this hope in view, I tendered my services to the Military Attaché on my arrival in Chungking after interviewing His Majesty’s Ambassador. I asked that I should be permitted to concentrate on the interests of civilian internees. I had been informed that the Colonial Office approved of my remaining in China. On 23.6.42. I was however informed by the Military Attaché that my services would not be required.


             I have incurred some expenditure in connection with this work, an account of which I have submitted to His Majesty’s Ambassador. His Excellency has been pleased to authorise that my expenses, other than purely personal expenses over the period 4.4.42. to 5.6.42., when I arrived in Chunking should be met by the Refugee Relief Fund, for which decision I am very grateful.

            With approval of His Majesty’s Ambassador, I am leaving Chungking on or about 25.6.42. for New Delhi, to interview Mr Weightman, Joint Secretary of the External Affairs Department, Government of India, in connection with the suggestion put forward by His Majesty’s Ambassador for my future employment (Chunking Embassy telegram No. 398 of June 19th). [Note 3]

                                                            (Signed) W.P. Thompson


Note 1
The bombing raid on Police Headquarters on 15.12.41, is described in detail in Phyllis Harrop’s book “Hong Kong Incident” (1942) page 75. She was working on the Commissioner’s staff in the “battle box” in the basement of the 1919 block (probably the gymnasium at the pavement level of Hollywood Road and junction of Old Bailey Street). The Police War Diary records that the bombing took place around 16.00hrs. Thompson was badly injured with lacerations across his face and nose. Inspector Hopkins (buried in Stanley Military Cemetery) and two ATS drivers were killed in the compound.
Note 2
Gwen Priestwood describes their parting in “Through Japanese Barbed Wire” (1944), page 151 onwards. Although she does not explicitly state the location they parted, it is described as a few hundred miles from "Siukwan". She states she travelled to "Siukwan" on board a convoy of Kwantung Provincial Bank trucks.
Note 3
Walter Thompson returned to China to work for the SIS under cover of the Inter Services Liaison Department (ISLD), tasked to gather intelligence on the Japanese military in occupied China. He returned to the Hong Kong Police post-WWII and after being seconded to Malaya during the late 1940s returned to Hong Kong to become Director of Special Branch in the early 1950s.

This letter was written by Walter Thompson on the same date as the above report.   The punctuation and spelling are as close as possible to the original document in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.                                                                                                    


Chung King


Dear G.

  1.  A Miss Susan Sung, c/o Dr Coixon To, Kayamally Building 1st Floor, is acquainted with Wardress Chan – working at Stanley, Bidmead is said to have received  correspondence through this channel – Susan Sung knows Eva Churn (now in Chung King – Gordon King probably knows where).  No opportunity to test our contact.
  2. Possible very useful contact - Lee Ah Mau, former No. 1 boat boy HK Yacht Club - can be contacted through boat people at Causeway Bay – (works as a Chinese doctor . Native place Kongmun.  Well recommended – but I have not tested him).
  3. You ought to know the following 2 names;
  1.   Tsoi Kwok Leung – O.C. Saikung group of Mass Anti Japanese Guerillas.
  2.  Chan Tat Ming – his adjutant.

I think a great deal of this latter man´s capabilities – in fact of both of them – Tsoi admits that we know only half of what he does.  (I have broken a promise in putting these names  to paper – so please be more than careful that they are not mentioned unless under circumstances to their advantage.)

Chan Tat Ming knew something of what I started to do when I was staying with him

  1.  Line of communication to Stanley.
  2.  Survey of escape route overland, and placing of agents en route.
  3.  Connect with Khushi Moh´d – an Indian who I believe worth while trying to get out.
  4.  Contact Selwyn Clarke
  5.  Contact Joyce Wilson in Macau (this not important).


  1. Note for Geoffrey Wilson at Stanley via this group – asked for list deficiencies to be remedied if at all possible – this for Mo.
  2. Khushi Moh´d – first attempt to contact failed, but a different approach was being planned.
  3. From Waichow a line was put out to contact and fix out an Indian Sergeant in the Police Reserve – name unknown – living at No 2 Chee War Street, 2nd Floor, Yaumati – (reported to be anxious to get out – and anti Japanese).
  4. The Mass A - J Guerrillas should by now have an agent working at the temple at Tai Miu Wan (Joss House Bay) – Temple Keeper Au Kam – (opposite Shekko – on mainland south of Clear Water Bay).
  5. The following contacts may prove useful:
  1. Cheung Shiu Tong – Lo Kwan´s rascally adjutant – carries on a profitable trade with H.K.- and can get anything in or out – by arrangement – (locate in Waichow).
  2. Leung Lik Ping – Adjutant to other guerrilla band in Sai Kung district (Wong Chak Ching´s gang driven out of, reasonably honest).
  3. Lau Shui- boat man – locate in Sai Kung Market – or through Kong Sui, useful to a point.
  4. Liu On Cheung – Merchant – Yuen Kat Shop Waichow – arrange for a note to be taken in for me to my former Indian tailor – Sirau Din -  31 Nathan Road – trades in and out of Hong Kong.
  5. Yip Foo – rather an old rogue – claimed to be able and contact Gendarmes at Internment Camps, and arrange escape of friends for about H.K.$2,000 per head – I let him what he could achieve by way of a trial with Colin Luscombe (outside of note addressed in Chinese name only).  No cash paid until Colin handed over in Sai Kung district.  (Not a method I like handling – but unavoidable - Ride knows, thanks to Yip Fu blabbing independently – I think he can sort out how money is to be raised and paid, as he has evidently discussed the suggestion at length with Yip Fu).  Can be located through Tai Hing Cheung Shop, Sui Tung Street, Waichow.
  6. Chan Fo Shan;
  7. Chan Sau Lam) – names given to me of reliable men living at Shekko – Informer very good type – and did good work for me.  I have a lot of other names - but don’t think they will be of use to anybody else, owing to job of locating them.
  8. Lam Chong. Manager Kwangtung Provincial Bank – Waichow – I should say an excellent man – with probably useful contacts in Hong Kong.
  9. Chan Chiu Fan – now in Kukong.
  10. Wu Wing;
  11. Wong Ping - Ex soldiers of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment or R.E´s, very good type of men – both Wu Wing and Wong Ping returned to Hong Kong for me on jobs to make contacts – Difficult to say where they can be located except ultimately through Ride or Scriven.    

Your note to Watie enclosure – sorry only able to send a “Digest” via Geoffrey.

Have asked Fisher to arrange for any wire to be handed to you.

Was expecting one from Scriven - probably unintelligible. If you think it worthwhile forwarding it, please do so by mail to c/o Hugh Weightman, Joint Sec’y, External Affairs Dept: Government of India – New Delhi.

Have written to Ride asking for any Safehand covers for me which may turn up to be forwarded to Barcley Gage for forwarding to me. Could you ask Barkclay Gage for me – with the attached note?

I think that s about all.

All the best and thanks,


Thanks Elizabeth,

That's interesting, especially the plan to facilitate Colin Luscombe's escape from Stanley, which it seem was eventually not pursued.

One point about my earlier post and Thompson being Director of Special Branch. He was DSB in 1947-48 and then later went to Malaya. I have it the wrong way around in Note 3 above. (The wooden plaque with the list of post-WWII DSBs is on display in the HKP Museum, I checked it last week.)


Ancestry Public Family Tree

Walter Philip Thompson born 7 June 1909 in Tac Chow Chekiang China son of Reverend Edward Thompson and Clara Elizabeth Chamberlain who married 25 November 1899 in Shanghai

Walter Philip Thompson married 19 September 1936 in Hong Kong

Passenger List 22 May 1947 Liverpool to Hong Kong 

Walter Philip Thompson 37 occupation Colonial Police Service

He died 24 October 1978 in Sydney NSW Australia